“To scrutinize microbial control, we monitor CCPs, especially by evaluating sanitized surfaces using ATP [adenosine triphosphate]-sensitive swabs,” O’Dell mentions. “We also conduct sanitation audits of cellars and packaging facilities, and we plate for viable organisms in finished goods.”
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Explore This IssueAugust/September 2014
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While some oxygen exposure is a necessary part of wine development, too much oxygen exposure limits shelf life, O’Dell says. Closures, including various types of corks and screw caps, all offer benefits and downsides to maintaining seals on bottles, which impact oxygen exposure.
The optimum temperature for wine storage is generally 40 degrees to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. “Wine does develop with age,” O’Dell elaborates. “At lower temperatures it develops more slowly. At extremely low temperatures it can freeze. At higher but moderate temperatures, it ages more quickly. At very high temperatures, 90 degrees to 100 degrees Fahrenheit-plus, wine can cook quickly.”
Contrary to popular belief, all wines do not get better with age, O’Dell points out. “Old vintages are always rarer, but not always better,” he says. “Some wines do improve with age, for a while. Eventually, the combination of oxygen, temperature and time will limit the useful life of virtually all wine. The best we can do is monitor wine quality, assign an estimated shelf life to all lots and begin monitoring when lots in inventory are at risk of approaching their expected shelf life.”
Wine is regulated by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), under the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
“The goals of the TTB are to collect taxes and protect consumers,” says Brent Trela, PhD, an enology specialist who operates Alert Aesthetics, a private consulting firm that serves the international wine industry.
Specifically, TTB’s existing authority under the Federal Alcohol Administration Act’s [27 U.S.C. § 201 et seq.] Section 205 (e) is “to provide the consumer with adequate information as to the identity and quality of the products.”
To that end, TTB regulates labels, additives, processing methods, etc. (It is interesting to note, Dr. Trela says, that while TTB regulates the labeling of alcohol beverages, it is FDA’s responsibility to evaluate the safety of ingredients added to alcohol beverages, but the TTB still regulates what ingredients are permitted to be added.)
“States can make more restrictive wine regulations,” Dr. Trela relates. “For example, California does not allow chaptalization, which is the process of adding sugar to unfermented grape must in order to increase the alcohol content after fermentation. The TTB does allow chaptalization under specific conditions.”
TTB also works to level the playing field to facilitate U.S. export, import, and domestic trade in alcohol, Dr. Trela adds. “Overseas, TTB serves the U.S. as a liaison among foreign governments, industry and the public in support of worldwide trade,” he explains.
Aside from TTB, the U.S. participates in the World Wine Trade Group (WWTG), an informal grouping of industry representatives from wine-producing countries around the world.
SO2 serves as an antimicrobial agent to inhibit yeast and bacteria, and also as an antioxidant to safeguard wine’s fruit integrity and protect it against browning.
The WWTG’s vision is “a successful, competitive and growing global wine industry, characterized by social responsibility, sustainability and focus on consumer interests, operating in a climate free of trade-distorting factors.”
As of now, FDA nutrition labeling is not mandatory for wine, and neither is allergen labeling.
“Even though beverage alcohol is not within the jurisdiction of the FDA, TTB, in cooperation with the FDA, issues its own allergen labeling requirements,” Dr. Trela says. “The voluntary interim rules require specific information and wording to be included if a producer, bottler, or importer of any alcoholic beverage discloses information. Any allergen declaration must state ‘Contains’ followed by the common name for the major food allergen.”